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Scott Simon remembers Bob Edwards, the voice of NPR for 25 years

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

God rested on the seventh day, and on the eighth, he lent his voice to Bob Edwards.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

BOB EDWARDS: Good morning. I'm Bob Edwards. The Senate today is unsealing 4,000 pages of closed-door transcripts from the Joseph McCarthy hearings in the early to mid-'50s.

SIMON: That voice, which personified Morning Edition for almost 25 years and had hosted All Things Considered alongside Susan Stamberg before that, was resonant but not pompous. Bob's voice rolled like a great river at just the right pace and toning about war, peace, politics, blooming camellias and baseball scores. At a time when NPR was a fledgling institution, Bob Edwards made it sound big league.

I heard the voice in person for the first time years ago, when a door at WBEZ, our Chicago station, was thumped open by a scuffed boot worn by a man in blue jeans and a trucker's jacket. (Imitating Bob Edwards) What time do the [expletive] bars close in this burg? You're not Bob Edwards, I said. He was in town for election coverage, and we became friends. He was sharp, funny and had a laugh like a great, deep bell.

Bob was the best cold reader in the business. You could throw a Budapest phone book at him, and he'd read it out with unwavering authority and enunciation that was proper without being stuffy. A phrase Bob once wrote of Edward R. Murrow applied to Bob, too. He engaged the high school dropout while not boring the intellectual. He'd often begin prerecorded interviews by saying, you start. Producers could find this baffling, but Bob told me his opening gave the person he interviewed a chance to begin with what they considered most vital and compelling about a story. Bob imagined his audience as people, not data points. He envisioned listeners hearing him as they blinked, open their eyes in the morning, gulped coffee, and drove to work and school, twisting through a dial for voices to ride along.

Bob had a public parting with NPR in 2004. I know he was angry and hurt, but Bob Edwards was also a stone-cold pro who understood this is the news business. I made it a point to sit in the studio with Bob for his last Morning Edition. Between intros and interviews, he told funny stories and hugged people dropping off scripts. (Imitating Bob Edwards) You know, Scooter, Bob told me that day, doesn't take much in this business to go from being a beloved national figure to a person of concern. In a craft where what we do can seem just to float in and out of our ears, Bob Edwards' voice stays in millions of minds and hearts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.